January 6, 2016
It is winter again.
The city hasn’t gotten destroyed by snow yet, like last year, but the cold gets in my bones, and I find myself washing dishes recreationally just to soak in the hot water. Jesse, too, is feeling it, and is spending a lot of time making nests out of my clothes. With sweaters now just a temporary concept, I find myself, on these icy evenings, fondly remembering days of warmth gone by.
This past summer was particularly enjoyable. Although I didn’t get out paragliding, I kept busy; I managed to leave the apartment a few times a week, actually finished a book I’d been working on, and together Jesse and I beat the heat with shaved ice, his drizzled with cow blood.
Over those happy months, however, Jesse’s palate became a lot more refined. It all started one Sunday morning. While preparing an ambitious brunch for Summer Friends, I failed to properly guard the food, and Jesse helped himself to twenty-five dollars worth of lox. Since then, he’s been on the hunt for more delicacies — goat’s cheese, baklava, the prosciutto I bought to celebrate the completion of my book’s digital distribution system. This animal is insatiable for quality; it seems that nothing less than a shrimp ring will satisfy his appetites now. Last time I offered him kidney, I got a claw dangerously close to the jugular.
As such, he’s been getting up on the counter a lot.
While previous attempts to set boundaries for this badger have proven fruitless, I knew I had to draw a hard line here. The counter should be, after all, a haven of food safety, and if I allow filthy badger paws near the place where I prepare stews, it’d only be a matter of time before there’s fur in the borscht.
So the next time I saw him climbing up the drawer handles, I took a deep breath.
“Off the counter, Jesse,” I said, and by the twitch of his ear, I could tell that, even without formal language training, he knew what I meant.
“Off,” I repeated, pointing to the floor. Jesse snarled. Not one to back down in my own kitchen, I approached the simmering badger, prepared to enforce the rule with firm yet gentle authority.
Altitude, however, was in his favour, and Jesse launched himself from the counter. Without a sweater for protection, I proved a soft target, and he stuck to my ribs better than the stew I’d made with the beefheart he hadn’t wanted.
I think I went into shock? Everything got a whole lot colder, anyway. Luckily, a Winter Friend dropped by with a delivery of sweaters, and got me all patched up. And some of the sweaters even had hoods, at least for a few days.
Jesse is allowed on the counter now. He also gets a wedge of Camembert at breakfast.
February 26, 2015
There was a big snow, then it rained, and the puddles all froze. Then it snowed some more, and there was a big rain, and that froze, too, and apart from turning every sidewalk in Halifax into a jagged deathtrap, it’s left an icy mass on my building’s roof. Last week, my ceiling sprung a leak over the window frame in the bedroom.
I set up some towels over the curtains and texted the superintendent. He said he’d be over the next day, but around 4am, I became aware of a bigger problem — halfway across the room, the ceiling had started dripping onto Jesse’s badger bed.
Jesse was not taking it well.
After pacifying him with my light-blue towel, which he’s always been fond of, I sent a more urgent message to the super. He told me the property manager would come first thing in the morning, which, while a relief, presented another problem.
I don’t have a badger written into the lease. Though cats are permitted, I learned definitively one Hallowe’en years ago that Jesse does not tolerate costumes.
In the morning, when I heard the knock on the door, I hastily put him in the closet.
I’d only done this once before, during a date I’d organized for myself — and when Jesse made a brilliant escape, completely ruining the evening, I learned a valuable, painful lesson: that one should never confine a badger to a closet. But these were desperate times.
“Show me the leak,” said the property manager, skipping the formalities. He clearly still resented me for the time I’d requested an access key to the storage room. I led him into the bedroom after making him take off his boots.
As he inspected the bubbles on my ceiling, I heard Jesse growling at the closet door. I tried to cover like it was my stomach, and lamented the lack of grocery stores nearby. The property manager ignored this, and said he would get some people out to clean off the roof. This, he said, would stop the leaks.
I asked him if it would still leak when it rained, through these new cracks.
“No,” he said forcefully. “No. It won’t.” Although I recognized this as a Power Lie, I didn’t call him out on it. I took the opportunity to again show him my rotted window frame, but he dismissed it as too big of a job before leaving.
When I finally opened the closet door, the remains of my ultra-thermal sleeping bag poured out into the room, followed by my frenzied badger. I’d been sleeping under thin sheets for months when I had a sleeping bag in there the whole time? Terrible. I deserved the injuries I got that morning.
Some men came and smashed up the ice on the roof for most of the day, and though it took a lot of organ meat for Jesse to forgive me for the closet thing, all my other towels were soaked through, so I had to use the light-blue one to clean up a puddle underneath the curtains.
The sidewalks must be especially bad right now, because the emergency room is packed tonight.
December 22, 2014
Let me tell you about this housecoat.
I don’t have a huge frame of reference — I’m not constantly trying on other peoples’ housecoats or anything — but compared to my other clothes, my housecoat is by far the cosiest.
I’m going to skip over the part where Jesse befriended it, and started dragging it around the apartment like a security blanket; partly for brevity, but also because it’s adorable and it might make him come off as the victim in this whole thing.
The trouble began when I noticed a draft near the bedroom window. The frame is pretty rotted, but now it’s gotten to the point that the pane has actually sunken into the wood, leaving a half-inch gap along the top. It’s letting in a huge amount of cold air — although, it is at least some consolation that I now know how all those wasps got in this summer.
I left a message with the property manager, but he’s about as ineffectual as the furnace, so in the meantime I needed an extra layer to keep me functional. I haven’t been able to play much Go recently, as circumstances have thrown me back into Enterprise Java, and my spare time is now being spent wrestling with Maven. I had to do something for myself.
I kind of figured I wouldn’t be getting my housecoat back after Jesse had started using it as a daybed, but I stress: none of my other clothes compare, so I turned on the space heater and waited until Jesse felt its pull. Sure enough, he heard its distinctive crackling as it heated up, and left whatever he was trying to do with the garbage to curl up on the ottoman I had placed strategically nearby.
The housecoat once again mine, though with a new itch of wiry badger fur, I was actually able to learn something about Maven repositories, with even time left over before sunset to refactor a terrible function! Jesse slept, oblivious in his warmth, though from the way he had his claws in the ottoman, I could tell he was having one of those dreams where I end up needing gauze later. I tried to type quieter, but when his subconscious rage evidently became too much, he sprang from the ottoman, seeking blood.
That was when he saw the tail of our housecoat, swaying behind my unguarded legs.
Today Jesse is in mourning, and has collected the scraps into a pile beside the garbage. I had to get rid of the pieces that were too saturated, but when I ran out of gauze, I was forced to sneak a few dry ones from his shrine to staunch my wounds. Luckily he didn’t notice.
I just wish he could have waited a week to do this. All the housecoats for sale now are Christmas-themed.
November 19, 2014
Whenever this month rolls around I am reminded of the winter I found Jesse. Those freezing cold days doing web design, constantly getting lacerated — I look at my old scars now and wonder how I survived. And I realize now that I was undercharging.
But that winter ended, followed by another, and as Jesse grew into an adult badger, the cold apartment became unbearable, evidently for both of us. One morning, I woke to discover the front door hanging open. Jesse had gotten out! I searched the neighbourhood high and low, squeaking his favourite honey bottle.
Had I not seen the signs? Sure, he had been spending more time beside the window, and there had been that day that he tore out the back of the dryer because he felt a draft. But where would he get his favourite organ meats, if not my fridge?
I returned home badgerless, sinking immediately into deep depression. I couldn’t get out of bed, not without his sharp teeth in my carelessly exposed ankle. Who would catch our mice, and smear them across the living room floor? Where would I get my warmth, and where would he get his?
The last few years have been dark. Without a badger in my life, I was vulnerable to the allure of Go, and descended into its black and white vortex, infinite and all-consuming. I graduated from plain old web design to mobile development, and later, to RESTful web applications. Life continued — and over time, I thought less of Jesse, my deep wounds healing without too much medical attention.
But get this:
I was on one of my walks last week, trying to soak in a few precious minutes of winter sun, when I heard a distinctive snuffling from behind a tree. It was Jesse! A little more silvery around the snout to be sure, but when he leapt from the sidewalk into my arms, almost throwing me into traffic, there was no question. I looked around, but unfortunately no one had captured the moment on a cellphone camera. It doesn’t matter.
Jesse is back.
February 4, 2010
This apartment is still very cold but I recently acquired an electric heating pad, much like those used in electric blankets, and it has found a home under a regular blanket on my lap. As this is normally Jesse’s spot, there have been, as you can imagine, some tensions.
I was working on a database one cold morning when I decided I needed to get the pad out. My hands were chilly, and every time I would write a new query, I would have to pause and question my will to continue living. I could hear Jesse in the kitchen attempting to get into the garbage, so I knew it was safe to remove the pad from its hiding place. I quietly opened my sock drawer, after putting on some music to cover up the associated sounds, and slid the main portion of the pad under my lap-sized cat quilt. As I bent down to unplug my lava lamp, I heard the sound of a cookie package tearing and some happy snuffling, so I relaxed a little, and, with the pad plugged in, dialled up the heat to the maximum allowed by industry standards.
Jesse might have known something was going on when he heard the music, as it is not usual that I put on late-period Depeche Mode before noon, but responded instantly to the sound of the dial, tearing himself away from the cookie crumbs and running down the hall, coming to a sliding stop in front of the doorway. He had been getting into the garbage a lot lately and was developing a noticeable inertia, cute at first but now downright terrifying. He snarled, the scrap of a Mr. Christie logo stuck on his claws. I tried to not look guilty but the cord was impossible to hide, and Jesse is a perceptive, territorial animal.
My cat quilt was spared and despite the safety instructions on the heating pad which practically guarantee a fire for one reason or another, no fire was started. However, in my haste to hide the more covert but less effective barley bag from his rage, I ended up with a gash which I think actually needed stitches? It was elliptical at any rate. I considered calling Heather for her nursing advice but that website I had designed for her hadn’t gotten a lot of views and things were a little icy between us.
“Jesse,” I said, pressing an old Terry Fox Run t-shirt into the wound, “how can you be my only heat source when you’re always tearing open the garbage?” I removed the shreds of fabric and plastic from his paws and set him down in my lap. He stayed there happily until lunch time, though, and I finally finished that database I was working on.
After lunch I accidentally erased all my data with a bad update query, but I blame myself for that.
November 27, 2009
Yesterday my self-loathing was more powerful than usual and I was glad to have Jesse around.
“Jesse,” I rasped from beneath the covers, “can you get me my slippers?” I did not want to move, as I had enclosed a lot of heat under the duvet, and in my half-sleep delirium had designed a business plan for a heat empire, in which I would sell the warmth to neighbouring beds in exchange for things like money. The insulation around my window was almost as useless as I was, and the cord to my space heater had been chewed through, first by mice, then more thoroughly by badger teeth.
Jesse was evidently downcast too, and did not stir from the bed of dirty clothes I had made him.
Curled up in a ball, he had a lot of heat to lose if he moved. He would be my first client if he did this for me.
I had taught him the command earlier in the week, but had not instilled discipline in the badger, instead giving him treats whenever he made that face of his.
He did not budge, but made a decisive growl. I had heard this once before, when I had first attempted to take away his honey milk, and the deep scratches on my palm, wrist and along my jawline still stung with thankfully-not-infected hindsight.
Regaining more sense, I put one leg out into the frigid air to feel around for the slippers, fully aware that I was endangering my career in the temperature industry. I winced when my foot touched the bare floor, and my cheeks crackled with frozen tears. The slippers were not where I had thought I had left them, but it had been dark, and I had been bleeding.
“Jesse, where are my slippers.”
No sound. I began to shiver as air from the outside tainted my stores, and my dreams of being an industry leader faded back into my subconscious. I hoped the friction of my skin against the covers would provide some temporary relief as I slid out onto the floor, where I trusted the slippers would be. Not so.
His badger face tilted up toward me, and I saw redness in his eyes. There was probably a lot of dust on the floor; in my preoccupations over the past few days, I had neglected to sweep or vacuum. Feeling even worse, I pushed aside a shopping bag full of garbage and curled up beside him, vowing to give him any residual heat that still remained on my person.
But when I edged closer, I saw an edge of scratchy gray material underneath his paws. He had wrapped himself around my slippers, keeping them warm for me! He did not protest when I took them – in fact, I may have even felt a nudge of affection from his tapered head.
After breakfast I washed Jesse’s pile of clothes, and then we went back to bed, where we slept away another ten hours. I missed a dental appointment.